About the Project
Message From the Project Director
The issue of Professionalism among physicians has become an important one to the public as well as the profession. Daily one reads of horrific examples of poor communication, disrespect, bias, lack of the availability of palliative care and so on.
In what one hopes was the glorious past, physicians sat down and listened to their patients, explained their findings and diagnoses at length and comforted and touched those in pain and those who were dying. Now, for many reasons, physicians are perceived to be cold, distant, uncommunicative, short of time and long on selfish acquisitions. The media report that alternative medicine specialists and nurse practitioners thrive because they provide what physicians no longer do – time, listening and explanations.
Deans Donald Wilson and Frank Calia are first and foremost superb humanistic physicians who resonate with these concerns of the public. In the summer of 2000, they asked me to undertake a comprehensive overview of all areas of Professionalism in the 4 years of medical school, from the admissions process to its evaluation, not ignoring the importance of role models among the faculty and house staff.
I quickly learned that Professionalism was shorthand for a whole basket of issues ranging from communication to ethics, from families to other members of the medical team, from life-long learning to subordinating oneself to the patient and his or her needs. To flesh out the shorthand I seized on the acronym – HELPERS-PRO standing for:
Physicians subordinating themselves to their patients
Sensitivity to age, culture, disability, diversity and gender
Respect for Patients, Families and Colleagues
Other (Death and Dying, Impairment, Sexual and Aggressive Behavior, Physician/Industry relationships)
To capture all these areas I pulled different experts’ and groups’ definitions together and designed a survey that incorporated them all. The survey was then filled out by all the course and clinical experience directors and its findings categorized in terms of what was currently being taught, what was inappropriate to be taught at that stage and what could be taught that was not (Survey Results - Appendix 3 and 4).
I interviewed all of the course and clinical experience directors and found out their views on what more could be done. Their suggestions and recommendations were then incorporated in a report that was presented to the Deans who approved it without any changes.
This Website, a work in process, will feature the developments of this project as it evolves. Many of the items we will post, e.g. the evaluation forms, are drafts currently being piloted. I hope you will read its contents, provide feedback and support, and help make our school the best example of one where humanism and science march hand in hand.
John A. Talbott, M.D.